Monday, August 30, 2010

The Kouts Porkfest

Last Saturday my search for the unusual took me to the town of Kouts IN.

Kouts is a small four-corner town about eight miles south of Valpo on SR49. Each year they hold an event called Porkfest. I guess I never expected much from such a tiny town like Kouts so we never attended the event before.

This year I just had to see what Porkfest was all about. What I found was what I expected.

It was set in a rather small 2-3 block area adjacent to the four corners with 10x10 tents selling everything from bad apparel to homemade duck calls. There were the expected large enclosed inflatable bounce bags for the kiddies.

They had a parade with fire trucks, police cars, a band or two and the obligatory long conga line of local politicians. We missed most of that as planned.

The food was typical fest food. No Indiana fest would be complete without a Dr. Vegetable trailer.

I swear these guys show up at all local fests and county fairs serving greasy fried vegetables. Me? I’d rather have greasy fried meat any day. Why not Dr. Pork instead?

Here was a quaint pork vendor prior to setting up.

Not having much time to spend, we left before he got going. But I am sure judging by the trailer alone they had some good stuff not to mention the cool vending trailer.

Most food vendors were selling their usual fest stuff but here’s a very enterprising couple. This is a traveling wood-fired pizza oven.

While we did not sample any pizza it looked good and I admire their creativity. They will be back selling pizza this next weekend at a local produce stand and we’ll try the product then.

Hey, look. Pierogi!

And it’s about 40 miles from Whiting.

There were local old folks enjoying themselves. Kouts is one very small town.

This alone was worth the trip. Check it out. A mini-chopper with a Honda 90 engine. Sweet!

The volunteer fire department was grilling pork chops. Yawn. Some vendors were selling pulled pork sandwiches. OK. Others offered pork burgers and pork brats but no food offered as pork excited me one bit.

There were no ribs. No hotlinks. No bacon. No whole roasted hogs. This was not a Porkfest to me, it was just an excuse and a theme for a town party.

But it was a cheerful little town party so don’t get me wrong. Everyone there appeared to be enjoying themselves and that’s all that counts.

IF I were running a Porkfest event here’s what I would do.

1. Enlist some rib vendors. What’s a porkfest without ribs? Kouts is not a hotspot for diversity but in this case it could use some. There are fest vendors from Gary that serve ribs and I am sure they would like to make a few extra bucks in Hooterville.

2. Hot links. Ever had a hot link? It’s probably the best spicy pork sausage ever and not too expensive. You’re more likely to find them in urban areas.

3. Roast some whole hogs fer’crissakes. A pig roast is not only great food but it makes a spectacle seeing the whole pig rotating on a huge skewer over a bed of hardwood coals and the aroma is intoxicating. I’ve roasted whole hogs before and all the cuts taste the same from bacon to the ribs to the ham to the jowls. What you get with a whole roast hog is large quantities of pulled pork. I roasted whole hogs twice once each for my two kid’s graduations right in front of my garage. We served about 80 people each time. After roasting, the pulled, shredded meat was separated into three warming dishes, one was plain pork, the second was pork mixed with mild BBQ sauce and the third contained pulled pork with hot & spicy BBQ sauce. The skin itself was nothing less than awesome!

4. I could go on and on but what about fried pork schnitzel, pork tenderloin sandwiches and even fried bacon kakobs? How about Carolina style pulled pork?

A true Porkfest would celebrate the swine first, not fest food and trashy junk vendors but that’s just me. Sure, that can’t be avoided but it would take a back seat in my Porkfest.

What this Porkfest lacked was a little creativity and variety. It lacked celebrating the varieties and nuances of pork.

Maybe I will offer my assistance to them next year. I would even waive my Pork Potentate consultant fee.

Places I Have Been

Back in April Carl and I went to San Francisco to do some running and see a few sights. We had a great time. There is a lot for tourists to do in San Francisco from seeing the Golden Gate Bridge (we ran across it) to the piers to Chinatown and lots more.

The city across the bay, however, Oakland - well, not so much.

We took the mass transit train to the home of the Oakland A's - they were playing Baltimore that day. What an ocean of concrete, filth and destitution. I didn't see one thing on the way to the game that I wanted to slow down and get a better look at.

Then when we got to the game we were greeted by this hamster cage.

It sort of reminds me of the hamster cage when you get off the train to go to Cell.

After you go down that path, you are greeted by Al Davis's monument to himself, the Commitment to Excellence that is the Oakland Anaheim County Stadium. It is just as bad on the inside.

While we were in there, there was this one Baltimore fan in his ancient Eddie Murray jersey with a full sleeve of skull tattoos.

This reminded me of what a craphole Baltimore appeared to me. They have a tiny nice downtown area for tourists, but that was about it. The rest was broken down, with lost souls wandering all over. Carl and I have a running joke that Baltimore residents must all have skull tattoos.

I think the worst city I have ever visited though was Philadelphia. Even their tourist areas were dirty and crappy with tons of homeless people hassling the visitors. This post I did a long time ago summed it up for me.

I remember a plant tour I took in Philly. The bus picked us up from the hotel and took us to the plant and there was nothing to see but broken down buildings, and barbed wire. It was amazingly depressing.

Do these towns have "good parts"? I would bet that they do, but maybe I am wrong.

Monday Morning Blues

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Iconic Buildings

A view up looking up at Trump.

Looking through the skylights at the iconic AMA building (the one with the triangle cut-out in front).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

On Economics

The Wall Street Journal editorial page today had a great little paragraph that pithily summed up a key economic and political concept:

"O*ama and their economic coterie really believe that government spending can stimulate growth by triggering private "demand", that tax rates are irrelevant to investment decisions, that waves of new regulation can be absorbed by business with little impact on costs or hiring, and that politicians can assail capitalists without having any effect on the movement of capital."

Then the article goes on to compare this 'recovery' with the one after 1982-3 when the Gipper was in charge.

"Now taxes are poised to rise sharply... and Federal agencies are hassling business at every turn... now companies are sitting on something like $2 trillion, reluctant to take risks when they don't know what new costs government might next impose on them."

It actually is a bit worse than even the article portrays.  Companies don't just choose when to invest in the US (to use that $2 trillion in cash), they choose WHETHER to invest in the US at ALL.  Nowadays the US has the least favorable tax climate of the developed world, and there are many other opportunities overseas where you can actually get plants built and have governments happy to work with you and welcome your investments with open arms.  Multinationals can do anything from anywhere and they are not stupid.  It is one thing to determine whether or not it is time to "pull out" of the US due to an onerous regulatory and tax regime (that is a tough call) - but it is a much easier call just to decide to invest much less incremental capital in the US and ride operations here as a "cash cow" instead, for the indefinite future.  That is what is happening en-masse today.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Friday Night

Friday, August 27, 2010

Reasons To be Cheerful, Part 4

Cheer up Chicago sports fans. We have four reasons to be cheerful.

Hit the play button and enjoy.

Tonight while watching the pre-game show for the Sox v. Yankees game I saw something unexpected.


During the past 25 years, Chicago teams have won championships in all four major pro sports (if you count hockey as a major sport), a feat not accomplished by any other city during any 25 year time period.


This is definitely a Trivial Pursuit answer or potential Jeopardy question to be considered.

While I have major league problems with the City of Chicago and Chicago professional sports, this is one honor I am proud to recognize.

It was quite a sight to see.

First, Richard Dent brought out the ‘85 Bears Vince Lombardi trophy to place it on a pedestal behind home plate.

Pyrotechnics were launched.

Next, Jerry Reinsdorf trucked out one of six NBA Championship trophies commemorating the incredible run of Bulls championships and did the same.

More pyrotechnics.

Then, Mark Alan Buehrle dragged out THE 2005 World Series Championship trophy to place on the third pedistal.

Even more pyrotechnics.

Finally, Coach Quinville hauled out the Stanley Cup and placed it on the fourth pedestal. This one visibly dwarfed all the other trophies, it was huge.

Big time pyrotechnics.

Huge cheers and applause from what looked to be a sell-out crowd.

I hope Carl showed up early to this game.

Then I thought, what about those Cubs?

Oh, yeah. World Series Championship Yankees manager Joe Gerardi is in town.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

About Those Asian Carp

If you are unfamiliar with this invasive threat to the Great Lakes check out his video.

A few varieties of carp are already living and breeding in Lake Michigan. Here is one I caught fishing for perch a few years ago.

These carp are bottom feeders, kind of like politicians. While they are rather harmless in the Great Lakes their presence in small inland lakes do a lot of damage to the spawning areas of edible game fish.

But this new breed of carp, asian carp, are much more of a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem as well as small craft navigation.

From the Lake Michigan Perch story here and subsequent comment made by Dan there was an email sent to him from a lady named Emily. Dan forwarded it along to me.

In the email Emily asked if (through this blog) we would support her organization. Their website is here.

This organization lobbies for the shipping interests, agribusiness and unions judging by the list of sponsors.

I sent an email response to Emily. In it I asked a number of questions before it earned my support, blog or not. She never offered a response.

Illinois has installed electronic barriers in the canal system that connects Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River to stop the carp. So far it has worked. But that has not stopped other Great Lakes states from taking a proactive position against Illinois, who refuses to close any locks leading to Lake Michigan.

From Wikipedia:

“On December 21, 2009, Michigan State Attorney General Mike Cox filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking the immediate closure of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to keep the Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan. Neighboring Great Lakes states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the Canal, are codefendants in the lawsuit.”

The SCOTUS refused to hear the case.

Invasive species are not new to the Great Lakes. Sea lamprey (a large eel-like parasite) entering through the seaway eliminated the native lake trout early in the 20th century. Having no other food source the lamprey went away and a non-native lake trout was introduced through stocking.

Alewife (a form of herring) entered through the seaway as well but this prompted the introduction of pacific salmon to the lakes creating a new sport fishery. Biologists were able to solve that problem with a positive.

Zebra mussels and goby entered the lakes through freighter ejected ballast water. All have upset the balance of the ecosystem but not to the degree these carp will.

In the above video you can see at the :40sec mark that a jumping asian carp can interrupt a boat operator causing loss of control. These aren't tiny gobies or mussels we're talking about, these fish are a life-threatening phenomenon. Not good at all.

It is my position is that everything should be done to stop these carp from entering the lakes. It seems foolish to close the locks and disrupt commerce.

I asked Emily in my email if her lobbying group was committed to installing additional electronic barriers or finding alternative solutions and if the sponsors were considering paying for them. Or, were they relying on the Army Corps of Engineers and government tarp money or some other form of porkulus. Their website claims they do but not to what degree.

If Emily responded with some facts then I would consider her lobbying group legitimate and willing to help solve the problem benefiting both sides. Since no response came I not only refuse to support her group, I am 110% against it.

I have already emailed governors, congressmen and senators from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois expressing my concerns with asian carp and I suggest you do the same.

Other than that I don’t know what else I can do other than blog about it and enjoy the lakes until the carp arrive. Until then maybe I should get in some practice with a bow and arrow.

It is only a matter of time before they enter the Great Lakes. Once they are in they will be impossible to remove.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Poor Engineering

We just got a new phone system here at work and while the system itself is great, I am less than impressed by the engineering of the headset. Check out this photo:
That is a position I find myself in a lot of times, while I am rifling through a technical manual, or a PO file, or whatever. The receiver is so off balance that when I put it like this, the microphone is covered up by my chin. Also, the earpiece comes off of my ear a bit.
Look how tiny! I do have big hands, but this is a bit ridiculous.

So replace it...well...
...note the round cutout for the receiver. Stuck. I have a hands free that I will be making great friends with for the forseeable future.

What I get to thinking in these situations is if the phone manufacturer actually consulted an ergonomics engineer at all, and if they did, that guy or girl must have been last in the class.


Maybe, just maybe, this phone was designed in China, by Chinese people, who are typically smaller than us behemoths here in the States.

Just thoughts that pass through my head when faced with this type of crappy engineering.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.

Full Moon Over River North

We had an exceptional full moon last night here in Chicago and got a great view the moon moving across the night sky.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Bureaucracies Suck

It is important to keep in mind the ossifying effect of bureaucracies and their ability to grow and consume resources without impacting the situation that they were established to originally "fix".  This occurs in the public sector (government) and in the private sector among foundations.

A donor gave a gigantic donation to the Poetry foundation, a foundation dedicated to publishing "Poetry" magazine and also to helping the mission of poetry.  In the popular consciousness and in reality, being a poet would be the quintessential "starving artist", since there is very little remuneration for this sort of work. 

So what would be the logical thing to do with this vast and unexpected donation, in excess of $100 million?  Perhaps the foundation could actually pay poets and sponsor their work and bring them out of penury?

Nah... the thing to do is BUILD A BIG BUILDING FOR THE STAFF (and visitors).  In an expensive part of Chicago, in fact, where the cost of the building is a significant multiple of what it might cost elsewhere, say the suburbs of Chicago, or pretty much anywhere else in the US outside of New York or California.

Per this article, the total cost of the building is expected to be $21.5 million.  Since nothing ever comes in on time or on budget, plan on it costing a bit more.

...offices space are located on the second level, organized into three areas each for the administration, Poetry magazine and website staff, and programs staff. The building’s internal arrangement is configured so all spaces have views of the garden.
Glad all of the staff now reside in a very high rent district, in a state of the art building, with a view of the garden.  I'm sure all of the starving poets out there will appreciate this fact.

A classic example of a bureaucracy putting the needs of its staff ahead of its mission.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Cheap Killing Machines

I was never really a cat fan until we got one a while ago. I actually like them now - and especially because they have a function at the farm. A working animal if you like.

Last winter we had some rodent issues at my farm inside the barn, which we rehabbed into a pretty nice space. We did the trap thing and that certainly culled the herd but in the back of our heads we knew that the problems would be there every year. And it is sort of gross to think if you are sleeping out there that a mouse could be sh1tting in your bed.

When the warmer temps came the traps started to become empty as the mice headed outside to get food. We consulted an exterminator and he installed what I call "mouse hotels of death". They are bait stations about the size of a basketball that mice can go into but not exit - there is a small flip door that they can push open, but then they can't back out. We haven't had any luck with these yet but expect them to fill up when it gets cooler, especially after the first frost.

As a side note, exterminator would be a great career to go into - they are needed on practically every farm or rural property.

Inside the barn we have our domestic cat, Chester.

Chet is all luvvy duvvy and is really a people cat, domesticated to the core. He is a good hunter however as the wife has seen him take a mouse (and heard him consume it). So that covers the inside. Unfortunately, Chet isn't outside material.

But feral cats are.

We just acquired a male and female feral cat. We call them the tigers. They are a little bigger then these fellas as of right now and look like the one in the wiki linked above.

Here in Madison we have a feral cat humane society. I guess they take extra cats that farmers breed/find and try to adopt them out. They spay and neuter them as well as give them rabies shots and other stuff. The idea is to adopt them out to places that will give them a decent home and let them do their deal - which is killing.

These things are scary. They don't really want to be pet but they will let you. They have a look that is not the look that Chet gives you - they don't want to be loved and they don't want to love you. They just want to do their job. I like that as we won't get too emotionally attached to them if a fox or hawk gets one. They are cooped up in a 6' x 6' cage for the time being until they get a little larger, but the entertainment has already started - they got a mouse and a bird already while in the cage. Probably visitors to the cage trying to poach the cats food and/or water. Last mistake those two will ever make.

With two enormous piles of hay now just waiting for mice to bed down in them before winter, these killers will be welcome guests at my place, and I really like the fact that they are fixed so we won't have 10,000 of them within two years. Cost - $25 each.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Chicago Air & Water Show

The Chicago Air & Water Show gives me a great chance to watch jets in our skies over the city. I have a good view from my balcony and friends of ours have an awesome view from atop their building near the lake. On Saturday (day one) I took a few photos from my balcony and on Sunday I got some from my friends' deck.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz


I wasn't really surprised when I heard about most of Blago's charges being declared a mistrial. They had a hung jury - one juror wouldn't budge. I won't criticize the juror, but would like to make a few observations.

From what I have been reading, the prosecutors completely botched this thing - good thing they will get a second whack at it. First hand accounts say that the jurors were totally perplexed when they entered the deliberations room and had to sort out a ton of stuff on their own. They had over twenty charges to consider, and all the evidence that goes with each charge. Charges like racketeering and selling Senate seats are complex - did he mean what he said? Is what he said an actual violation of the law or was he blowing smoke?

The prosecution should have taken a couple charges, their best ones, and run with those and made it as simple as humanly possible for the jury to understand.

Next up, we have the one holdout on the jury. When I heard that, my mind raced. Was the prosecution bribed/extorted to run a bad case? Was the juror threatened by the mob or bribed? This is the Chicago way, after all, and nothing would surprise me.

Shannon Love makes an interesting point. His theory is that that one juror (or many) were just so used to the day to day corruption in Chicago that they could have taken Blago's criminality to be just day to day business in the big city. It is a valid point. I will give you a personal story to illustrate this.

I grew up in Rockford in the 70's and 80's. I wasn't really exposed to much of the daily strife and corruption that rules in Chicago. Not that Rockford is pristine, but just not Chicago-like. When I was in my 20s I visited a friend who had a business in Chicago and they had a tiny manufacturing facility. A man walked in and my friend handed the man an envelope and the guy gave my friend a piece of paper and then he left. I asked my friend who was the guy and what was going on there. I was informed that he was the elevator inspector and that was his money for re-certifying their elevator for another year. I said "you mean the fee?" My friend laughed and said "no silly, his piece of the action - our elevator hasn't been able to be certified for a decade now due to age and we don't want to replace it". It was my first exposure to an outright bribe and I was flabbergasted and extremely upset for some reason.

To this day I get extremely upset as I play by the rules and don't like it at all when I find out someone has one-upped me by means of bribes in any form - obviously I am not a candidate to run a business in Chicago.

But back to Shannon's point. If you are used to dealing with a climate of bribing inspectors, the mob for protection, or whatever you need to get done, you wouldn't look at what Blago was doing as anything more than the daily grind - nothing different than me putting on the coffee in the morning.

If that jury was from Chicago and they dealt with this stuff all the time, I could see how their interpretation of the law would be vastly different than my interpretation, or what someone from, say, Danville or Carbondale or DeKalb would think.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lake Michigan Perch Report

After four summers of loading our livewell with limits of jumbo perch like these the 2010 season has been a bust. This photo is from late June 2009.

Out of the seven or eight times we have ventured out only twice have we each come in with enough perch to make a meal. I guess we’re jaded from previous success. Others we talk to report similar results.

One reason I have not published any fishing trip experiences is because the few I have taken weren't much to write about.

The migratory habits of the perch may have changed and I can only blame the weather. While they don’t actually migrate they do follow their food source, which consists mainly of minnows, crawfish and smaller perch. Canibals I tells ya’. Wanna talk about animal rights?

Our sources of insider information are baffled as well. Even the expert at the Mik-Lurch bait shop in Hammond is quite perplexed. As he admitted to me Tuesday, “I thought I knew everything there is to know about perch fishing but this year has told me I don’t know sh!t.

The consistent hot spot this summer has been the Navy Pier area in Chicago. The Mik-Luch guy told us early on that spot has been consistent giving up jumbos for off-shore boaters in the area. It hasn’t changed, that was his recommendation again yesterday.

The problem for us is fishing off Navy Pier means buying an out-of-state Illinois license, paying $40-50 for launching in Burnham harbor (thanks Dick Daily) or powering up from Hammond and making a fifteen mile run each way. Finally, dealing with all that boat traffic and congestion near Chicago isn’t worth it. The surface gets artificially roiled by larger craft and staying out of the way of tourist boats and sailboats rag-baggers is a pain.

In addition to all that nonsense, Illinois closes all Lake Michigan perch fishing during the month of July. It’s simply state DNR political bullsh!t with the intent of “saving the perch resource”. If only they were as concerned about the invasive bighead Asian carp.

Only the reciprocal area of Calumet Harbor is open to perch fishermen of both states since the Indiana border is about ten yards parallel to the Illinois shore fro about a mile.

We’ve done ok near Michigan City. That’s where we nearly caught three limits (45) in one morning.

Soon the salmon will begin their run chasing the perch far off-shore so Tuesday may have been our last run for perch this summer.

It was one of the finest nice weather days I have had on Lake Michigan in a long time. We had a nice boat ride.

After November 1 it gets good again for jumbos and we may get back out weather permitting. It’s been said that’s the best perch fishing time of the year for the jumbos, which often exceed 14” in length. That makes perch similar to keeper walleye.

We’ll see.

This sign caught my eye entering the Hammond Marina. It was taken at the entrance to the Hammond Marina near the Horseshoe Casino.

Looks like someone from the Hammond Port Authority ripped off a sign from The Chicago Park District judging by the small print at the bottom of the sign.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Near Bozeman, Montana

Recently I had an opportunity to travel to Montana for a brief weekend to visit with my folks who were traveling through. They now have direct flights into some of the more affluent cities such as Bozeman and Kalispell from Chicago which was unheard of even a few years ago when you had to connect through a city like Denver or Minneapolis on the way to Great Falls, Billings or Missoula.

This is why they call it "Big Sky Country" - a view near Bozeman.

We stayed at a KOA nearby that was surrounded by mountains; I like the clouds curling over the mountain tops and the start of the rainbow in this photo.

Here is a view of Hyalite Creek just outside Bozeman, where a fly fisherman is enjoying his day.

Here is a view from a reservoir in the mountains south of Bozeman; the waters seem absolutely still.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Canarble Time!

A while back when my dad was here he brought a bottle of tequila and some liquid margarita mix. I love margaritas but shy away from most mixes, They are way too sweet and sour to me but I had a few.

Yesterday I noticed that half-bottle of tequila he left behind in my liquor cabinet. It looked back at me and just screamed:


Yes, I like a good ol’ retro drink like the tequila sunrise. I never follow bar guide recipes because they end up being way to sweet to me. If made properly this is a fine summertime evening screen porch cocktail.

Here is a palatable recipe for a great sunrise that is not too sissified or Parrot-Headed.

Fill glass with ice. Pour in tequila halfway. Fill the rest with OJ. Add the slightest dash of grenadine for color and flavor but not too much. In a well-made sunrise the tequila flavor will be dominant.

There’s no need for top shelf tequilas in a sunrise, that's alcohol abuse. The cheaper stuff like Cuervo works just fine.

Just the way I like it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Practical Shooting - A Sport for all Ages

Shooting in sanctioned United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) target competition matches is one of the highlights of my summers here in the Midwest. Combing the elements of speed, accuracy, and firepower, participants negotiate obstacle-laden shooting courses (called stages) containing a variety of moving and stationary targets to earn a score based on the speed and accuracy of their shooting ability. For those numbed to boredom from shooting paper silhouettes on a linear bay at an indoor range, USPSA is like getting off the city bus and piloting your own fighter jet.

Yet even good shooters I know tend to be intimidated by the idea of showing up for a match. And indeed, the guys who shoot competitions do tend to get to know each other over the years and get a bit "clubby" which could seem imposing to an "outsider". Yet I've never known match shooters to welcome a newbie with anything but open arms, patience, and usually a ton of advice born from their own unique recipe of shooting style and preferences.

As for skills, take a look at my 17 year-old nephew shooting at his first match this weekend on a visit from Texas. After spending about an hour with me the day before coaching him on range commands, safety, and reloads, he strapped on my Glock 17, stepped to the firing line and shot an entire 6-stage match like a seasoned pro.

The Kid definitely has natural skill and good hand-eye coordination (who said those countless hours spent blasting Nazi zombies on the PS3 were a waste of time?). And he even beat out several more experienced shooters on this stage. But it doesn't take a ballistics savant or Delta Force training to go out, shoot well, and have fun. All you need is a reliable weapon in 9mm or higher, a holster, a few mag pouches, an eye on safety, and a good attitude.

So check out a club in your area (they operate nationwide and even internationally under their sister organization IPSC). Get a couple of guys together and try out a match. If you're like me (an now my nephew), it won't take much to get hooked.

He Did It!

Yesterday was my son Andy’s birthday. I called to wish him the best. He’s 29. What bothers me most is next year I will be the father of a 30 year old. Cripes.

He informed me of his decision to purchase a new Browning Buckmark .22 handgun, the affordable camper model. Even more congratulations were in order.

He had already been to a state DNR owned range near Indianapolis and emptied a few clips with it. Here are some photos he sent me.

He liked everything about it especially the accuracy.

It’s not really his first gun. I bought him a .177 pellet rifle when he was ten. He’s also shot most of my guns from .22 rifle to .50 cal muzzleloader and has downed more than a few birds with a 12 ga while hunting. He never needed a reason to buy a gun before because he could always use one of mine, but suddenly living on his own and at a distance he wanted what I am calling his first gun.

We want to thank all those who left comments back here. It helped a lot. By owning the .22 and getting in a lot of range time it will make him more comfortable making the purchase of a larger caliber carry piece..

I had sent Andy links to many fine gun blogs, even those that prayed at the altar of the 1911 and told him to keep an open mind when making his choice. One such blog is no longer live but I always read it when it was because I considered the man a true expert in all firearms and respected his evaluations.

Kim DuToit wrote the blog “The Other Side Of Kim”. I read it regularly because I liked his writing and his politics. That blog is no longer online for whatever reason. His blog also had an online catalog of nearly each and every firearm complete with a rating, a photo, and estimated value. He was the living definition of a gun nut and damn proud of it, almost to a fault. I remember asking Dan his opinion of Kim's blog and we agreed, begging for money through your blog is something neither of us believe in. Other than that it was very well written.

Kim wrote a lot about gun safety, types, handling, purchasing, valuable SHTF information and of course politics, which I was 100% behind his views.

One of his suggested “first guns” was a Browning Buckmark. I would link to his blog where it was reviewed many times, but it has since gone dark.

It’s not necessary to agree with anyone 100% of the time but one thing I remembered and respected was Kim’s rating and praise of the Browning Buckmark being the best choice for a first gun as well as one best suited for getting in a lot of handgun practice without breaking the bank. I can’t wait to shoot it at Gunstock 3.

Andy did good and I’m the proud dad of a responsible, self-sufficient, well-grounded, young American.

Happy Birthday son!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 - Soundgarden

Lollapalooza day three was HOT. In Chicago it doesn't get hot like Florida but with humidity and direct sunlight it was enough to wipe out most of the crowd. The guy in the upper left had a lot of gas left in his tank, though. On the upper right, a view looking north with the Lolla icon. Lower left, a view of Wolfmother, which played to an emptied-out south half, and Cypress Hill, who had the whole crowd engulfed in a cloud of smoke of the non-traditional variety.

But for me the whole show was about SOUNDGARDEN. I never saw them while they were in their prime during the grunge days but they re-united for Lollapalooza and frankly the pre-concert vibes from critics weren't that great. But Soundgarden silenced the critics - Chris Cornell's voice was absolutely awesome - and they bludgeoned the crowd with a hammering set of their classics.

Upper left - I got up front and to the right of the stage (conveniently near liquor, to boot) and this is from later in the night before it got pitch black. Upper right - the view looking north with spotlights in the background. Lower left - a view of the show early on. Middle right - as the night ended, the inevitable ambulance rides off. Lower right - the crowd cheering early on for Soundgarden.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Monday Afternoon Blues?

Maybe Dan slept late today.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 is being held in Grant Park in Chicago. The music festival goes for three days on a Friday - Sunday and I bought a 3 day wrist band which lets me come and go during the weekend.

On the first day the crowd seemed large, as you can see in these photos. The upper left is the mid-day crowd on Friday watching the Black Keys, on the north end. The lower right shows the crowd facing south just past Buckingham Fountain, which is the center. Lady Gaga played a strange show, dropping more f-bombs than Snoop did last year, but she was certainly trying hard and wearing virtually nothing for half the show and brought fireworks for the finale. On the lower right is Perry's, where the crowd dances into the night.

There weren't a lot of bands that I was into the second day. I wasn't going to attend at all but the weather was nice so I decided to go over and watch the crowd and have a few beers. In the upper right you can see Kuma's Corner, where they had HUGE hamburgers that you have to see to believe. If you go to the restaurant in Chicago you have to stand in line for hours to get them - it is a heavy metal shop as you can see they have the Iron Maiden and Judas Priest burgers. On the upper right there was a see-saw that generated enough power to make sno-cones. On the lower left you can see some of the very strangely dressed people as they went to Lolla to make a statement. And on the lower right some very pro-dope fans from Canada during Metric.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Saturday, August 07, 2010

On Owning a Hobby Farm

Well it is almost vacation time for me and time to cleanse myself in the magical healing waters of Lake Michigan for a week. This is something the family and I have done for the past decade or so. I leave behind my farm chores this year, which is something different. Never had those before.

My farm chores aren't really chores per se. Chores, to me, means daily tasks. Lets see what Webster says:
the regular or daily light work of a household or farm
Ah, I was right. What I do at my hobby farm is not in fact chores, but rather could be described eloquently as the following:
a sh1t-ton of extraordinarily hard, fu*cking backbreaking labor
Yes, that is a much better description of what I do at my hobby farm.

I have to admit, as much work as it is, I enjoy the work. As most of you know, I have been upping my exercise and the farm labor is a practical, easy way to get extra boot camp type workouts in. All of the lifting, walking, wheelbarrowing, shoveling, and moving create practical and useful sessions of exercise.

We have to contract with a local farmer to harvest the 15 or so acres of hayfield we have. The first crop was harvested too late (way too much rain) so the farmer received all of that. The second crop was cut a few days ago, and I believe they will be out today to bale. It is a beautiful crop. The alfalfa was very thick - my cattle love it. We will probably receive about 300 bales of that to get us through the winter (we already have 150 or so stacked from last year) and the farmer will get the rest. There will most likely be a third crop and the farmer will receive all of that. I actually looked into buying a tractor and a cutter, rake and baler - no way. Everyone I talked to says you not only have to buy good stuff, you still have to know how to fix it. It is cost prohibitive, and I am not up on the mechanical end of tractors and such. So I am at the mercy of cutting a deal with the farmer.

Fortunately for me, the farmer that we deal with is a good guy. They send an army of kids to help us stack hay, and they brought us a huge load of grass hay to get our horses through the winter. We have three horses now. I don't care about the horses though - those are my wife and kids pets.

Today I will clean out the cowsh1t from our lean-to. Here is something I learned about cattle - they stand under shade when it is hot. This may sound stupid to you, but you are dealing with a guy who has never raised cattle before. There are zero trees on the pasture that we have our cows on - so when it is hot, they stand/lay under the lean to, and sh1t and piss all over the place and themselves. That is their job. But the crap does pile up. I don't have a bobcat so I have to clean that stuff out of there the old fashioned way, with a shovel and wheelbarrow - then put down barnlime and then straw bedding on top. Good exercise - real good exercise. The straw soaks up the urine pretty well. The automatic cow waterer is down there also and it was interesting when that malfunctioned and I enjoyed shoveling the crap in about two inches of water. Oh yea, that was nice. As an added bonus that day, the cattle sh1t all over the waterer so I got to clean that out as well.

We have six chickens now, and they live in an old pig barn that we fixed up and now call the "chicken mahal". I could watch them for hours, endless entertainment. I don't know why, but they just amuse me. Free eggs.

Oh, by the way, there is absolutely no money in this. BUT I am now out from under the monthly boarding payment that I had when we had one of the horses at someone else's place. So that is money saved. And this was FAR cheaper than purchasing some lake front property and my family (and admittedly myself) are getting a lot more enjoyment out of it than I thought we would. And the property taxes are very low since we are zoned ag. The farm is close by our house so we enjoy the place a lot. My wife and kids have been there pretty much all summer. Eventually we will build a house out there, sell the one we have and live there full time.

I have learned a bunch about farming, and I will have more of these stories to entertain you in the years to come.

I need a scythe to cut down weeds that are grounding my electric fence. Sure, I could use a weedeater, but I want to work on my obliques. And go back in time a bit. Time to go to a farm auction.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

At The Gourmet Hot Dog Bistro...

...interesting insects abound.

If you saw this.

You should see this.

Creative minds photograph alike. Thanks for the inspiration, Ann : )

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Guest Blogger

One of my oldest and dearest friends, Chris From Colorado, responded to my account on the superiority of pork spare ribs.

He mentioned in the comment section that he had recently acquired an electric smoker.

Due to his comment Dan invited Chris to “guest blog” about the newest addition to his backyard kitchen. To me, one can never have too many backyard cooking device options,

While Chris had no photo documentation of the chicken he smoked, he provided me with images of his smoker being used with salmon.

The following is a guest blogger entry courtesy of Chris From Colorado.

Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters

As an avid year-round griller and barbecue enthusiast, I was surprised to receive an electric smoker for Christmas last year, a gift from my wife.

What I am I going to do with this I thought? I already have a charcoal smoker, a gas Weber Genesis grill, a Weber Smokey Joe, a gas Coleman Road Trip grill and a hibachi.

Ah yes, the classic hibachi.

Years ago while living in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, I went out my back door to turn over the T-bone steak that was grilling on my hibachi during a late Friday night to discover that it was gone. Fortunately, living close to a grocery store a replacement T-bone was grilling within 15 minutes.

I highly suspected the local skunk had a nice meal that night, and found the bone the next day. That skunk probably had garlic breath for days.

I've been eating chicken cooked outdoors as far back as I can remember. As a kid, my mother prepared her own home-made barbecue sauce (I still make her recipe on occasion). Once my dad got the charcoal grill going, she grilled pieces of chicken to perfection.

In the Q & A section of Steven Raichlen's 'The Barbecue! Bible', he is asked 'What do you think of electric smokers?'. Raichlen answers that they work like a charm, but the only drawback is they're too darned easy to use. Gee, I like easy and too darned easy is even better.

What would we be cooking in the new electric smoker? How about ribs (pork and lamb), beef brisket, a whole turkey, hams, bratwursts, hot dogs, salmon and chicken. The smoked brats last Mother Day sure were a big hit.

On Mothers Day the brats smoked away unattended in the smoker while I grilled a dozen burgers on the Genesis. I'll admit my charcoal smoker is not easy to use at times, but I'm keeping it since we'll need a backup cooking option if the power ever goes out.

The electric smoker is not a replacement for my other outdoor cooking equipment, just a welcome addition. We still really enjoy a marinated leg of lamb on the rotisserie and cooking anything over charcoal and grilling when camping can't be beat.

Up until last Sunday, I had only smoked whole chickens, beer can style. We decided to buy some chicken leg quarters and try the rub Gerry from Valpo wrote about in his recent 'Myths About Babycue Ribs' blog. Since chicken leg quarters were on sale to boot, I was in business.

Here’s what we smoked last Sunday. I set the temperature on the smoker to 225 and got the rubbed chicken quarters out of the fridge. Once it hit 225 the bird legs went in the smoker, and it was officially beer thirty.

Due to the ease of use of this smoker, and being provided with an excellent rub recipe, I can't really take a lot of credit, but the smoked chicken leg quarters were perfection. Maybe it was the grape wood, I normally would have used apple or cherry.

They came off the instant they hit 180 degrees. The chicken melted in our mouths. 'Best chicken I have ever had' said my wife. Our 3 dogs inhaled the skin.

Even though we had a bottle of Uncle Yammy's grilling sauce (smuggled into Colorado from North Carolina) sitting in front of me I never put a drop on the chicken or my plate. Since the chicken was so good, it did not need Uncle Yammy's or any other BBQ sauce altering the flavor.

A bottle of red wine from La Chiripada, an excellent New Mexico winery complimented an outstanding smoked chicken meal. Mercy!

Smoking salmon in Aurora Colorado.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Range Time

My son came home last weekend. The occasion was a family celebration for my dad’s 81st birthday on Sunday. He needs no invitation, it's always good to see him again, no excuses necessary.

On Saturday he wanted me to go with him to the local indoor gun range, which is about mile away.

His request was inspired by his recent interest in buying a handgun as documented here. BTW, thanks to all those leaving helpful comments. We both appreciate it very much.

He’s hunted with me on many occasions so he is no stranger to rifles and shotguns, handguns, not so much.

That’s my boy on Saturday emptying a clip of .40S&W from the Glock 22.

Most folks who commented agreed with me, his first purchase should be a .22LR pistol. Saturday he learned why. Shooting is fun. Shooting Is also quite expensive. It’s the price paid to learn the safe handling and enjoyment of firearms and to better protect himself if threatened with violence. After throwing over 400 rounds of lead downrange it was obvious he wanted more but the price is prohibitive for a young man trying to save money. That’s where a nice little .22 comes in.

I shot a lot but not as much as he did. The Glock is doing just fine but my little carry piece, the Bersa .380 had a few hickups. Twice it jammed on the last round in the clip. This never happened before. If anyone has any idea why this happened and how to solve the problem it would also be appreciated.

I don’t care to post photos of paper target results, not that I am ashamed of my performance. On Saturday I had one group of .380 holes that touched each other and made a perfect triangle near the center dot at 20 feet. I took no photos of the target results so you just have to take my word for it. Con mi Bersa que era muy bueno disparando mi amigo!

Many gun fanciers love to post bragging shots of their paper target groupings. “Here’s my group at XXX feet” etc.,etc. While that’s nice to see here are some personal target results that I find much more interesting to look at.

Monday Morning Blues